Product Manager Growth: Great Teams, Active Learning
Expedia Product Lead on Building & Learning As A Product Manager (Part 2)
As a product manager – you have to coordinate users, designers, engineers and business people. You must speak enough of their language to be able to have a meaningful discussion and get the job done. Still, you don’t need to get too deep into specialization. Instead, you should be a guide and exercise active learning.
Think about it. Hollywood directors typically don’t write scripts, act or film, but the director guides everyone else in the overall vision of the movie. The director’s knowledge about cinematography may be relatively limited, but it’s the director who calls the shots. And a good director is probably asking a lot of questions along the way about the best camera angles and lighting.
IDEO excels at assembling great design teams by choosing people that seem to have nothing to do with each other, but it works. So they’ll put a musician on a design team because it brings the perspective of music to the project. Active learning and a broad vision are what capture and assemble the best from many sources.
Learners Are Problem Solvers
Bernard Barch once said, “Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”
When I interview product managers I’ll ask about the last book they read. I’ll want to know about their offline activities or hobbies. Their answers are very important in my selection process. If they tell me they don’t read books, they won’t get hired by me. I want to hire people who are curious about a lot of things.
If you can’t adapt and don’t have a toolbox of skills and knowledge – or if you don’t practice active learning – then when change happens, you’re useless. I want good learners on my team because they’re great at figuring things out. Even if everything changes – and it will – you’ll still be an asset to the team if you have a deep desire to learn.
As Eric Hoffer said, “In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”